Many WEP participants have no personal finances and have no experience in approaching banks for loans. The WEP’s classes have become renowned and respected in the community and have helped many women overcome their fear of the banking system and apply directly for a loan.
However, there are still many women who struggle to qualify for bank loans, often because they are single or widowed mothers with no assets. In response to this, Breaking Ground established a program of providing micro-grants to selected participants at the end of each class cycle.
In 2011 Breaking Ground partnered with GADD, a Dschang based non profit, and MC2, a local microfinance institution, to transition the program to a loan based model. This ensures the sustainability of the program and the accountability of the entrepreneurs. The loans, which range from 200,000 CFA to 500,000 CFA (about $400 to $1,000), provide women with the start up capital to launch or expand their business.
Projects are chosen based on a combination of need and creativity, with a focus on projects that fill a niche within the community. Special attention is also paid to selecting women from a diversity of ethnic and religious backgrounds. The women work under close observation from Breaking Ground, until they repay the loan.
To date, Breaking Ground has provided start-up grants to 42 female-run businesses in Ngaoundéré, and loans to 32 female-run businesses in Dschang. The supported businesses range from raising poultry to selling books.